Remember your early working life? I bet that most everyone my age and older (I’m a very young baby-boomer and I’ll leave it at that) can recall the terror they experienced upon starting a first job. I won’t forget the shrilling first words out of my trainer’s mouth immediately after fitting me for my uniform: “when you come to work you are to leave your troubles at the back door.” We then moved on to basic math (making change) and how much detergent to use in the 3-bay sink.  And yes, the uniform was necessary at fast-food restaurants, but why polyester? I digress.

The tone was set. I went on to learn my job and perform it to the best of my ability all the while leaving my troubles somewhere else. 

These days many small businesses start out with few or no employeesEveryone gets along and life is good. Employees are happy and want you to succeed. Then business starts to ramp up and you need more help and the current staff is feeling over worked. They see business building and wonder why they are still making $8.50 an hour. All this money coming in must mean the owner is getting rich!

Setting the tone with your new and existing employees can keep attitudes in check and may ward off unnecessary discussions in the future.  It doesn’t have to be a 10-page, corporate, human resources form in triplicate.  A single-page document that communicates your expectations, known as a job description, can be the lifesaver you refer to when things go sour. 

Some important and quite basic items to include on the job description are:

Pay rate. Believe it or not, I’ve heard stories of employees seeing their salary for the first time on payday. This discussion must happen before the start date.

Job Duties. If you plan on having your newbie clean the grease trap you will need to set that expectation upfront. 

Hours. Are they full- or part-time? 

Probationary period and review. It might be a good idea to set up a standard 3-month trial period for all employees followed by a review. Are you both on the same page? Is everyone happy? What is needed to improve? This might be the most dreaded aspect of employment but it quite possibly is the most important.

Benefits offered. If you are offering a health and/or other benefits be sure to abide by employment law where benefits are concerned.

Even the most promising new employee can morph into a Tasmanian Devil when you least expect it. But if you treat your employees with respect and equality you will have covered the basics and done yourself and your employees a huge favor.